It must have been a strange year for Italian-Americans. First, a show called Jersey Shore transformed a bundle of self-proclaimed guidos and guidettes from a punch line into a serious pop culture phenomenon, all the while managing to offend people around the world. Then a string of other shows (Jerseylicious, Jersey Couture, Cake Boss) arrived hoping to capitalize on the distinct mannerisms of this same geographic subset by riding in their leopard-print wake.
I can't say with any certainty whether Bend resident Cricket Daniel's second play, Love, Laughter and Lucci, directed by excellent Bend actress Vanessa Farnworth, is an antidote to Jersey-mania or the cherry on top of a year punctuated by very loud and brash stereotypes, but nevertheless, the play's acting shows some serious promise.
This production, running this month at 2nd Street Theater, opens with the whiney Gloria (Rachel Deegan) bickering with her elderly father, Sal Santoro (Liam O'Sruitheain), with whom she and her daughter Maria live. Maria wants to be an actress, and her dream is to star opposite her idol, Susan Lucci, on All My Children. Maria's mother disapproves and wants her to go to college locally in West Haven. After some clichéd dialogue, which not only alluded to Sal roughing people up (because all Italians are mobsters, of course), but poked fun at his age, I was curious where the play was going.
But soon the audience finds itself hanging out with Maria and her friend, T.K. (played by Summit High's Ali Kinkade and Anne Givans, respectively) before their high school graduation ceremony. As it happens, the best friends' grandfathers were partners in crime back in their heyday. These two young actresses truly carried the entire first act. Their earnest and energetic performances truly livened up the stage.
Grandpa Sal's character was particularly endearing, especially in his determination to help his granddaughter realize her dream. The second act picks up considerably and leaves behind no doubts about Daniel's ability as a storyteller. During one scene, the audience could be heard collectively gasping, a true sign that the characters had won them over.
Love, Laughter and Lucci
8pm Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2pm Sundays through January 22. 2nd Street Theater, 220 NE Lafayette Ave. $20/adult, $18/students and seniors. Tickets available at 2ndstreettheater.com